“We Have a Bingo!” The Happiest Words at Bingo Night!

26 Sep

Although my grandparent’s bungalow colony was quite small, we were able to take advantage of many of the amenities provided by other Kauneonga Lake institutions.   One of my favorites was Bingo Night at the White Lake Estate homes.

Deep in the middle of the homes, between Hilltop Road and West Shore Drive, was the large round clubhouse, sitting next to a pool. The only time I usually walked by it was when we had to walk past it to get to Amber Lake.   We loved walking around Amber Lake. Before Donnefeld Drive was built up, it was a great place to find salamanders. But after houses were built there, Amber Lake was the place to go to discover all sorts of amphibians.

However, once a week was Bingo Night!!!   Anyone could go to the clubhouse to play. Or I assume so. But it might also have been the fact that my grandparents had many friends who lived in White Lake Estates homes. And now that I think of it, we usually sat near them when we went to play.

We walked along West Shore Road to Donnefeld Drive to West Shore Drive on our way to pay bingo. It was daylight when we walked there, but on the way home it was a very dark journey. At the time there were barely any homes on Donnefeld Drive, so we walked carrying flashlights to help on the way home. That was part of the adventure!

My brother often told us scary stories, as we walked, ones he had heard at Boy Scout camp. The scariest was about Cropsey. Oh my! He set my sister and I up for fear. He told us one day that Cropsey always came to get you after you saw a can swinging in a tree branch. Then, one day before we left for the bingo game, he hung a can on a tree on our path to bingo! As we passed the swinging can on our way, he pointed it out to us, to tell us it was a sign that Cropsey would come! That night when we got home and went to bed, he jumped up at our window with a mask and ax, screaming. I still cannot look outside into a dark night. I do not think I slept for a week!

But that was just an added and usual Catskills sibling event. The main attraction was Bingo Night.   My Grandma and Mom usually went with us for Bingo Night. Sometimes, just my Grandma. I think it was a time for my Mom to have a bit of peace and quiet. We were three very active children. And Grandma liked to go because she sat with her friend Nan. Sometimes one or more of our friends went with us as well. The more the merrier for bingo!

We carried our money carefully in our pockets. It was so exciting to enter the filled hall and stand on line to buy our cards. I cannot remember the price. But it was not expensive. We would buy a drink and a snack before we found seats. Now came the best part: the bingo games.

I remember the angst and excitement when we would be one away from bingo. Would we win? Or would someone else get the last number first? And what if two people won? We all knew not to move the see-through red buttons off our card until the caller yelled, “We have a Bingo!” That was the best call, especially if one of us was the winner. I will be honest that did not happen very often. But when it did! Wow!

The worst thing to happen was to accidentally move your card and have the red markers move. That was a disaster because it was really hard to recreate exactly what numbers had been called. Everyone would help, but it made for a sad game.

I always loved the last game of the evening, the all over board. You had to fill every single number on your card to win this one. And it usually had a bigger prize, perhaps $5.00 instead of the usual $1.00 or $2.00 prize. As I would get closer and closer to filling my card, my heart would begin to pound. I so wanted to win that prize! When a friend or a sibling won, I would be happy. But not the same type of happy I would feel if I actually won.

The joy of bingo stayed with me even as an adult. My mother-in-law, Lee, loved bingo. I remember going to St. Louis and going to her bingo game with her. It was always held in the same church, and was a fundraiser. Lee had a special bingo bag with colored markers and other paraphernalia.   By this time you would buy throw-away, thin paper cards that you marked with a colored marker. You no longer had to worry about the little round buttons moving. When Lee died, way too early at 59, I remember finding that bag and wondering what we should do with it. She loved bingo so much. I kept that bag for a while. But eventually the markers dried out, and I threw it all away.

In Kansas I never found a bingo game. But I have found that on cruises, there are often big bingo events. I actually won bingo on a cruise ship. The pay off is much bigger. I received $150 for winning! That was exciting!!

My daughter and I with our Minnesota bingo winnings.  My friend and her son also won that night!

My daughter and I with our Minnesota bingo winnings. My friend and her son also won that night!

But it was not as exciting as taking my children to play bingo at a resort in Minnesota. We spent a week at the resort with friends and their children. There was a Bingo Night. It brought back so many happy memories. Between the two families we won four hands of bingo. I could not believe it. We even took a photo of the event holding up our winning bingo cards. This was the closest I have come as an adult to the excitement and joy of the Bingo Nights in the Catskills.

We always had something to do in the Catskills. It did not matter that there was not television and no transportation most of the week. Walking to Bingo Night, being with friends and family was enough to bring enjoyment in the Catskills.




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